More corruption claimed in flood relief

12 11 2010

More than 200 people are now dead in Thailand as a result of the horrendous flooding. PPT’s earlier posts on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s tardy, seemingly unconcerned, and incompetent response, the royal family’s apparently mean response and others here, here and here ).

Government relief efforts continue to be plagued by claims of corruption as PPT pointed out some time ago. Now a Puea Pandin parliamentarian “has accused the government of abusing an emergency cash payment scheme for flood victims, saying the money was distributed primarily in districts where by-elections are scheduled to take place next month. Anuwat Wisetjindawat, of Nakhon Ratchasima, told the House yesterday he suspected foul play in last weekend’s cash hand-out scheme by certain cabinet ministers in Nakhon Ratchasima.”

As we indicated earlier, PPT thinks he’s pretty much right in this claim. He says that the “government resolved to pay cash of 5,000 baht to about 632,000 affected families nationwide via the Government Savings Bank as initial assistance. He said the cash payment and distribution were concentrated in six districts of Constituency 6 which would see by-elections on Dec 12 after deputy interior minister [and from Newin Chidchob’s Phum Jai Thai Party] Boonjong Wongtrairat was stripped of his seat in parliament.” Anuwat later claimed “that cabinet ministers who inspected the flood in Nakhon Ratchasima canvassed votes for the Bhumjaithai candidate.”

PPT has checked with several sources in the Northeast, and these claims are accurate, with some in Korat still sitting in water and being told “the government doesn’t have the money for them.”

Abhisit says “he would ensure all victims received proper assistance” and that the “government was working to improve its disaster mitigation and management plan to ensure prompt and efficient relief.” Efficient is hardly the word to use, but Abhisit is now chief propagandists for his own government.

It’s propaganda because the claims being made are confirmed. For example, “flood victims in Phatthalung were taken by surprise when they saw the names of politicians in the Commerce Ministry’s rice sacks…. Some flood victims also reported that they found the name of a senator in the Commerce Ministry’s rice supplies.”

Ignoring parliament

16 03 2010

Yesterday PPT noted Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s patchy record on elections. Despite this, he had maintained a claim that parliament was the place to discuss and debate national issues. Some Democrat Party MPs had complained that too many MPs failed to attend parliamentary meetings.

Today, however, the Democrat Party effectively snubbed parliament. The Bangkok Post notes that “House Speaker Chai Chidchob about 9am on Tuesday ordered the postponement of the joint parliamentary meeting [he had called] due to lack of a quorum.” Only about “80 MPs and senators were reported to have shown up at the joint sitting.” Most of the MPs were from the Peua Thai Party.

It was reported that “Democrat MP Suthas Ngernmuen said after the closure of the meeting that Democrat MPs did not attend the joint sitting this morning because they were concerned that the parliamentary session could lead to violence as the red-shirts might consider they were being challenged by the coalition.” That’s not even a disguised untruth. The prime minister already said that none of his party knew why Chai called a special meeting but assumed it was somehow “political” and that Democrat Party members would not attend. “Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat said the failure to attend the joint sitting by MPs of the coalition parties was in line with the resolution of the government whips.” They feared opposition MPs could use the session to support red shirts. There are also rumors like these. Would they be challenged and even thrown out?

No doubt many of the Democrats are still at the beach, but Boonjong made the ludicrous claim that the red-shirts rally prevented the government and the parliament performing their duty, but said the situation would be only short lived.” Read that in many ways.

The government leadership, ensconced with the military, surrounded by the brass when they make speeches and announcements, using a barracks, flying in and out on military helicopters, is looking increasingly like nothing more than a military-backed regime.

Another untouchable?

3 11 2009

There is a short post in The Nation regarding Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat being cleared by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. The story isn’t entirely clear, but it seems that Boonjong can hand out money willy-nilly and that this is okay. The report states: “The case came to light in January after the Social Development and Human Security Ministry allocated the Bt100,000 budget designed as cash hand-outs to 200 villagers in Chok Chai district, seen as Boonjong’s political stronghold.”

Boonjong is one of those who jumped off the Puea Thai ship to join (the other untouchable) Newin Chidchob’s deal with the Democrat Party and the military-palace complex to form a government last December.

A search of The Nation’s archive indicates Boonjong’s recent political career:

November 3, 2009
The National Anti-Corruption Commission has found that Deputy Boonjong Wongtrairat had done nothing wrong when chairing the ceremony to hand out cash to 200 poor people in Nakhon Ratchasima
November 3, 2009
… Development and Human Security Ministry allocated the Bt100,000 budget designed as cash hand-outs to 200 villagers in Chok Chai district, seen as Boonjong
October 9, 2009
… No 1 or No 2, said Sumet Uppanisakorn, commissioner in charge of public participation. He said he could not remember asking the EC to disqualify Boonjong because he did not remember defendants names in most election fraud cases.He promised he would instruct the investigation office to speed up the probe into…
September 10, 2009
They were Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat and Deputy Public Health Minister Manit Nopamornbodi from the Bhum Jai Thai Party, and Deputy Transport Minister Kuakul Danchaiwijit from the Chart Thai Pattana Party, Suthiphon said.Most of the other MPs were from the opposition, including veteran politicians Snoh…
September 9, 2009
… speakers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as senators, MPs and committee members of both Houses.Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat, who submitted the first draft law, said the salaries of Bangkok s district and city councillors had not been raised since 1994.Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij…
September 9, 2009
Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat on Wednesday dismissed the allegation that interior officials were demanded to pay Bt10 million to Bt15 million in exchange for each appointment as provincial governor. The allegation is nonsense because interior officials don t have that much money, he said.Boonjong rigorously denied…
September 9, 2009
“The allegation is nonsense because interior officials don’t have that much money,” he said.Boonjong rigorously denied the involvement of his Bhum Jai Thai Party in the bribery demands designed to replenish its campaign warchest.He said the slow progress to replace 23 provincial governors, who are due for mandatory…
September 9, 2009
… Pandin12 Kaukoon Darnchaiwijit, deputy transportation minister, Chart Thai Pattana13 Treenut Thienthong, Pracharat14 Sanoh Thienthong, Pracharat15 Boonjong Wongtrairat, deputy interior minister, Phum Jai Thai16 Mani Nopamornbodi, deputy public health minister, Phum Jai Thai
and so on….

Petition day (with several updates)

19 08 2009

See several Updates below, including for 20 August 2009.

Reports of the red shirt/United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) presentation of the “royal pardon” petition for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra are becoming available. PPT summarizes some of them here.

Early reports in several newspapers said that thousands of red shirt supporters gathered at Sanam Lunag overnight and in the very early morning.

The Nation (17 August 2009: “Fears of clashes loom”) began by referring to the continuing fear of red shirt-blue shirt clashes (recall that justa few days ago the same newspaper reported that the two groups were allies) as the red shirts lodged their petition while the Supreme Court’s verdict in the rubber-sapling case against Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Newin Chidchob.

In the end, that latter case fizzled as the court postponed its verdict until 21 September (see the hour-by-hour details of the two events in The Nation).

The Nation reports People’s Alliance for Democracy co-ordinator Suriyasai Katasila, who seemed to warn of a “dark hand” that might benefit, pointing to the supposedly “impassive stance by military leaders” and claiming that “they will be the key factor wielding influence over the situation.”

Meanwhile, red shirt leaders are quoted as saying that blus shirts were being paid to disrupt the red shirt rally.

The Bangkok Post (17 August 2009: “Boonjong: No obstruction to UDD”) reports that Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat denied that he had hired people to disrupt the red shirt rally. This refers to “third hand” rumors. He said: “The government is not trying to block the red-shirt supporters from different provinces from joining the mass rally in Bangkok…”. This followed claims that such disruption – a tactic used on several occasions since the 2006 coup – were taking place as police prevented rural people getting to Bangkok.

Boonjong did not think there would be clashes between petition supporters and opponents. He added that “More than 10 million people have signed their names to oppose the royal pardon petition for the fugitive politician…”, a claim which would be impossible to verify, but he added that “provincial governors, district chief officers and village headmen continued to explain the process to the locals in their areas…”.

Meanwhile, as thousands rallied, Thaksin phoned in (Bangkok Post, 17 August 2009: “Thaksin speaks to supporters”). He reportedly told his supporters “that he was a political victim, and has not been fairly treated as authorities adopt double standards in the justice system against him.” This is why he had turned to the king (see more below). Nothing new in either of these claims by Thaksin.

At about the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban denied coup rumors (Bangkok Post, 17 August 2009: “Suthep: Silent coup just a rumour”). There would be no “silent coup” he said, adding, “The army officials I know follow the democratic system and they are not looking for more power…”. On the petition, flying in the face of the government’s numerous efforts to stop it, Suthep claimed: “We should not underestimate the situation but we should not be too apprehensive either…”. Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon supported Suthep.

The Bangkok Post and AFP have a background story on the delivery of the petition (17 August 2009: “Thaksin petition handed”), claiming more than 30,000 red shirts at Sanam Luang, with a picture of the petition (or part of it) being carried.

Bangkok Post photo

Bangkok Post photo

The red shirts claimed “they had collected at least five million signatures,” which the government has said they will check and scrutinize. The Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary was to transfer the petition boxes “to the government for inspection before deciding if the petition should be submitted to His Majesty.” Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has already said that the petition would be rejected by the government as unlawful.

This report has more on Thaksin’s phone-in, where he again appealed to the king: “We are here today to inform our father, the King of every Thai, that we want to see unity and reconciliation…”. Thaksin then went royalist, as he has often done, turning “to a portrait of Thailand’s widely revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the royal family and sang a traditional royal song.”

The petition was presented to the Royal Household offices at 1 p.m., with 10 boxes wrapped in  red cloth, led by 10 UDD leaders, including Veera Musigapong, and 5  monks. The Nation (17 August 2009: “Red shirts move to submit petition”) reports “dozens of monks” involved in the march to present the petition.


Nation photo

The report says, “After the petition was handed, the group dissolved peacefully and many had returned to Sanam Luang.”

In explaining the petition, this report notes: “Twice-elected Thaksin still enjoys huge support among Thailand’s poor, particularly in rural northern parts of the country, but is hated by the Bangkok-based elite in the palace, military and establishment.”

UPDATE: The Nation (18 August 2009: “Ex-PM pleads with HM, teary over devoted red shirts”) writes of Thaksin’s phone-in  and his royalist pleadings.

The report bgins: “Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, with tears in his eyes, pleaded with His Majesty the King to grant him royal amnesty and thanked his red-shirted supporters for submitting the petition on his behalf.” He is said to have proclaimed: “I, Thaksin Shinawatra, and my family will be loyal to the King and the monarchy forever.”

The Nation claims more than 20,000 red shirts marched to the Grand Palace and it is reported that thousands more assembled at Sanam Luang.

Thakin “said that he was turning to His Majesty as a last resort.” He is reported to have said: “We need to rely on His Majesty to bring back justice and peace to Thailand…”.  He said, “We are here to inform the father of every Thai that we want to see unity and harmony. We want to see the return of right, freedom and dignity to Thailand. We want happiness return to the country through reconciliation…”. He bowed to portraits of the king and queen before leading supporters in royal song and proclaiming “Long Live the King.”

Thaksin apparently phoned in again, after the petition was submitted, to thank his supporters. He “went on to thank the country’s citizens for being merciful and for their moves to restore peace, unity and prosperity in the country.” And he added: “If I am given a chance to return, the first thing I will do is pay obeisance to you all…”. He said that he would “wait for a miracle and hoped that peace would bring him victory.”

Finally, Thaksin is said to have proclaimed, “Although I’m being harassed, I will be patient and wait to return,” and then launched into a rendition of the royal anthem.

This report, while in the notoriously unreliable Nation newspaper, essentially sums up Thaksin’s problem.  As a member of the Sino-Thai elite, he owes allegiance to the (also Sino-Thai) monarch in order to demonstrate his “Thai-ness.” At the same time, his support comes from the people, who are more progressive than Thaksin. Whereas Thaksin sees the monarchy as a potential solution to his personal problems, many of his supporters already realize that the monarchy is one of the problems and an obstacle to a more thorough-going democratization.

If Thaksin is to return to Thailand with a political future, he will need to decide where his “salvation” really lies: with a reactionary and exploitative and fabulously wealthy monarchy or with the people.

If he chooses to align with the monarchy he will be betraying his supporters and will lose his political advantage and his potential historical role, becoming just another dominated capitalist in a system that remains essentially feudal.

New Update: New Mandala has an on-the-spot report on the presentation of the petition by photo-journalist Nick Nostitz, including many photos. Worth viewing.

Further Update: The Nation (20 August 2009: “Don’t stall petition: Juturon warns PM”) has a comment on the petition which is in line with other alarmist and irresponsible columns they have had recently. It asks: “Is the petition a bid to politicise the monarchy, and split the land?” And answers: “The country is going through a delicate phase as politics takes a dangerous twist – with the red shirts and Thaksin Shinawatra clamouring, even begging for a royal pardon. It could drive the country on the path to civil war” [emphasis added].

The Nation continues: “For many, the threat that Thailand will be ‘a nation lost’ is real. The division among Thais is clearly getting out of hand, taking into account actions from both the government and Thaksin’s side. The move to seek a royal pardon for Thaksin is clearly politically motivated and his possible motive may be to politicise the monarchy.”

It is simply disingenuous to keep claiming that the red shirts are politicizing the monarchy. The palace did this itself over a number of years and events, culminating in the planning and direction of the 2006 coup. Of course the “royal pardon” is political. The red shirts are using the palace’s politicization for their own ends and, judging by the frothing of the Nation’s editorialists and other conservatives, seem to have been successful.

Fears of clashes loom

Reds to present petition today; Newin supporters to meet outside court

Two gripping political dramas reach their climaxes today – the lodging of a petition to His Majesty the King seeking clemency for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the reading of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the rubber-sapling case against Bhum Jai Thai Party core leader Newin Chidchob.

The red-shirted supporters of Thaksin will march to the Grand Palace, where at Wiset Chaisri Gate they will hand the appeal to a representative from the Office of His Majesty’s Private Secretary.

At the same time, the blue-shirted devotees of Newin will turn up at the Supreme Court’s Political Division for Political Office Holders, which is located near Sanam Luang.

Since the two activities will take place very close by, authorities are afraid there could be clashes between the red shirts and blue shirts if they do not get the political results they want.

The red shirts will converge at Sanam Luang in the morning and Thaksin will phone in to their rally at about 10am.

The verdict in the rubber case against 44 defendants, including Newin, will be read out at 2pm.

Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator for the People’s Alliance for Democracy, warned of a possible political twist if a third party took the opportunity to create a scene for its own benefit.

He questioned the impassive stance by military leaders, saying they will be the key factor wielding influence over the situation.

Government claims 5 million sign anti-Thaksin pardon petition in a week

17 08 2009

An interesting sidebar on the presentation of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s campaign to petition for a “royal pardon” for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra relates to the government’s “data” and its presentation.

On 11 August, the Bangkok Post reported Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat claiming that 5 million had signed up to the government’s anti-petition petition.

The deputy minister said that “the Interior Ministry would continue to accept people’s signatures for an indefinite period.” He added that the names on the government’s petition would not be “submitted along with the UDD petition because the ministry only wanted to let the people see how big the opposition was to the petition.”

Today, the very same deputy minister is reported again in the Bangkok Post (17 August 2009: “Boonjong: No obstruction to UDD”) stating that: “More than 10 million people have signed their names to oppose the royal pardon petition…”.

He is supported by Interior Minister  Chavarat Charnveerakul also in the Post (17 August 2009: “Chavarat: 10m oppose Thaksin petition”) who also claimed that “more than 10 million people throughout the country have signed in opposition against the petition for a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra.”

The minister said that “the highest number or 4.7 million was in the Northeast – the traditional stronghold of the UDD.”

Chavarat also “insisted that those who signed the opposition had not been forced to do so” and then stated that his “ministry had no intention to compare the number of the signers to that of the UDD but to tell them of correct procedures regarding a petition to His Majesty the King.”

PPT finds it difficult to believe these ministers when they make such ludicrous claims about voluntary signing. The numbers claimed are also questionable. Could it be true that the governors, district chiefs, kamnan and village heads have really collected 5 million signatures in a week?

More of the minister’s non-pressure is applied by his statement that he had “ordered the permanent secretary for interior to put the names on the websites of every provinces and the Interior Ministry…”. Why would the government want to do this if it is not pressuring and not comparing?

Petitioning against the petition

10 08 2009

Regular readers of PPT will recall that we recently suggested that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was less than truthful when he claimed that there were no government directions to oppose the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) petition for Thaksin Shinawatra’s “royal pardon.”

If any reader was still in doubt, we can now report that there have been several new official orders issued by the Democrat Party-led coalition government as it demands opposition to the petition.

Prachatai (8 August 2009: “Schools in Buriram told to collect signatures against the red shirts’ petition”) reports a letter from the local education office in Buriram “ordering schools to collect the signatures of staff and students against the red shirts’ petition.”

The letter affirms “that certain groups of people are trying to submit a petition to ask for a royal pardon for a former Prime Minister. This is considered an act of ‘lowering the sky’, ‘transgressing the royal prerogative’, ‘pressuring the institution’, and causing division among the people.” And it repeats Prime Minister Abhisit’s line that those who have signed the red shirt’s petition have been “deceived into doing so.”

The letter tells school directors to have “their staff and students to write their names and addresses, and sign an attached form” which is headed: “List of citizens who protect the institution to the death and oppose the petition submission which transgresses the royal prerogative.” The letter and form are included with the Prachatai story.

Related, a Bangkok Post (8 August 2009: “Two million oppose Thaksin pardon” – story claims that “[m]ore than two million had signed their names in opposition of the campaign to seek royal pardon for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”. This revelation is from Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat.

The report notes that the Interior Ministry had “ordered provincial governors and district chiefs nationwide to arrange tables for people who want to sign to show disagreement with the royal pardon…”. Note the word “ordered” in both reports.

Boonjong expected to be able to announce the “official number” of people disagreeing with the UDD petition next week.

Meanwhile, Newin’s dad, House Speaker Chai Chidchob, said he was confident that the Ministry of Interior’s order to collect signatures against the Thaksin pardon would not create social divisions “because Thai people have the same beloved father – HM the King.” Again, the emphasis is on the orders given.

The same day it was reported (Bangkok Post, 8 August 2009: “Officials ordered to oppose pardon” – that Interior Minister Chavarat Charnveerakul on Saturday “asked village headmen and Kamnans … to explain [to] their villagers that the petition seeking royal pardon for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was not lawful.” Chavarat was speaking at a seminar for local administrative organizations, leaders of local communities and religious leaders in an event was organized by his ministry and the King Prajadhipok Institute, a curiously named institute that promotes royalist ideas about democracy and parliamentary politics.

Amounting to another order, the minister “called on the participants to help protect the royal institution and to tell their villagers not to support Thaksin pardon seeking move. The royal pardon for Thaksin campaign by the red-shirt people group could affect the country’s high institution.”

In a related move, the Ministry of Justice issued a statement designed to undermine the UDD petition (8 August 2009 – as arrests were made of three red shirt leaders in Chiang Mai.

The government is going to extraordinary lengths to oppose the UDD making it clear the the “great fear” has deepened for conservatives and royalists. As if it wasn’t already clear, the Bangkok Post (7 August 2009: “Suthep admits effort at peace has failed – Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said “the government has failed in its bid for national reconciliation as controversy over the pro-Thaksin movement’s royal pardon bid heats up.”

He was supported by Defence permanent secretary General Apichart Penkitti who said the “red shirts should end their move for a pardon for Thaksin as it was inappropriate and did not comply with the law…”. His other supporter was the former military coup leader and disgraced self-appointed prime minister responsible for the May 1992 massacre, Suchinda Kraprayoon.

Abhisit and the truth

3 08 2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is tying himself in knots over the red shirt “royal pardon” petition for Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit has been reported in the The Nation (3 August 2009: “PM: Red shirts must take responsibility over petition”) as stating “I reiterate that political activities must not affect the nation’s main institution (the monarchy).… Those who receive (personal) benefit from this should stop their action.”

Then he seems to get confused, making the quite outrageous claim that “There’s an attempt to convince people that the government is obstructing the petition movement…. “The government is simply trying to inform the public of the facts.”

If he is quoted accurately, this is an outright lie. For example (in reverse order by date):

* Abhisit (here) used some of his weekly television address to attack the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, telling them they “should stop gathering signatures…”. He claimed people were being misled and reinforced the point that the “Interior Ministry had allowed people who signed up the pardon petition to withdraw their signatures by registering with the local officials because the organisers’ intention might not be appropriate.”

* Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul (here) “ordered provincial authorities to launch a counter-campaign against the UDD’s petition,” and resorted to a quite old-fashioned but seriously threatening tactic of announcing that the Provincial Administration Department would “examine the identity of all the signatories to petition.” Abhisit has confirmed that this intimidation by checking names would take place.

* Army chief Anupong Paochinda (here) “has ordered commander of all army units to have their subordinates explain the correct procedures for seeking a royal pardon to the people nationwide.” Soldiers in villages and communities is direct intimidation on this issue.

* Abhisit claimed (here) hat the red shirt campaign was “manipulating innocent people.” Abhisit added, “We have to be cautious because these masterminds have complicated matters and people could fall victim to their provocations…”. At the same time, chief adviser of the Democrat Party Chuan Leekpai, “warned the government to pay close attention the red-shirts’ activities.” He claimed they were about to cause “chaos.”

* Interior Minister Chavarat (here) ordered village headman or kamnan “to arrange tables at provincial halls and district offices nationwide for people who want to withdraw their names from the petition for a royal pardon…”.

* Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan instructed the armed forces to monitor the signature campaign to endorse the petition seeking a royal pardon.

* The government (here) “warned supporters of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) that petitioning for a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra will only stir up divisive emotions in Thai society.”

* Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban expressed “his concern over the matter, saying that Thais should not do anything that disturbs His Majesty the King.”

*The government (here) used the state media to campaign against “improper conduct to politicise the monarchy via the pardon petition.”

* Coalition partner, the Bhum Jai Thai Party (here), organized taxi drivers to oppose the petition.

* It is reported (here) that “The People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Privy Council and the Bhumjaithai Party have made clear they oppose the petition…”.

* It was reported here that Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat from coalition partner Bhum Jai Thai Party had produced stickers opposing the signature drive and distributed them nationwide as well as erecting large billboards opposing the petition.

* Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga is reported here as slamming the royal pardon campaign and called on the red shirts to stop their campaign while questioning their motives.

* Abhisit is reported (here) to have “condemned” the UDD campaign to collect a million signatures. He accused them of bringing the monarchy into politics.

PPT considers the evidence is clear; the Democrat Party-led coalition government has opposed the petition, it has used state resources to oppose it, and it has mobilized the leading reactionary and conservative forces against the petition: the Interior Ministry, the military and the name of the monarchy. It has clearly tried to intimidate people.

This is not the first time the prime minister has mangled the truth, with one of the best examples being the case of Chotisak Onsoong (see here), accused of lese majeste.

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